Caribbean Drugs

From Criminalization to Harm Reduction

Edited by Axel Klein, Marcus Day, and Anthony Harriott


If the Caribbean poses a significant drugs problem for the UK and US, in the islands themselves ganja, crack cocaine and the policy responses to them have triggered a veritable social disaster. This book brings together new research, insightful policy analysis and practical experience of on-the-ground interventions. 

The Caribbean poses a significant drugs problem for the UK and the US, as the recent phenomenon of yardie gangs in British cities graphically illustrates. But in the islands themselves ganja, crack cocaine and the policies to control them have become, as this book demonstrates, a veritable social disaster. The authors, who are among the leading local researchers and engaged professionals in the region as well as the former regional head of the UN Drugs Control Programme, bring together new research investigations, insightful policy analysis and practical experience of on-the-ground interventions putting demand reduction into practice.

The dimensions of the illicit drugs market in the Caribbean are made clear. The origins of the problem lie in part, it is argued, with the impact of neoliberal economic policies that have opened up the region's borders and gravely undermined its traditional sources of employment and exports, like bananas and sugar. The islands, in part under external US pressure, have adopted a region-wide policy of criminalization This has involved the creation of specialized drug courts and serious human and social consequences as a result of criminalizing traditional cultural practices around ganja consumption.

Fascinating light is thrown on the difficulties facing drug abuse and rehabilitation centres and the dilemmas they throw up. Harm reduction as a fundamentally alternative approach to the drugs problem is also explored. This is the first book to examine the experiences of Caribbean countries since they adopted a coordinated approach to the drugs problem. There are valuable lessons to be learned at both policy and practical levels for other countries, and in particular those like the UK and US with large Caribbean populations. 

Author Bio

Dr Axel Klein is Head of the International Unit at DrugScope, and a fellow at St. Anthony's College, Oxford. He has carried out research projects in the Horn of Africa, Nigeria and the Caribbean on conflict, society and culture, and the politics of drug control. He is the coeditor of Fragile Peace: State Failure, Violence and Development (Zed Books, 2002).

Marcus Day is coordinator of the Caribbean Harm Reduction Coalition, Saint Lucia. In addition to managing a number of regional development programmes including the EC Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation project in seven Caribbean countries, he is the author of numerous reports and studies, including (with coauthors), A Drug Demand Reduction Needs Assessment in the Caribbean Community and Market (2002)

Dr Anthony Harriott is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. He is the author of Police and Crime Control in Jamaica (2000) and editor of Understanding Crime in the Jamaica: New Challenges for Public Policy (forthcoming).

Table of Contents

  • Part I: Background and Context
    • Introduction - Axel Klein, Marcus Day, Anthony Harriott
    • 1. The Search for a New Drug Policy Framework: From the Barbados Plan of action to the Ganja Commission - Axel Klein
  • Part II: Policy Responses
    • 2. Criminalizing Cultural Practice: The Case of Ganja in Jamaica - Barry Chevannes
    • 3. Drugs Court in Jamaica: Means to an End or End in Itself? - Anthony Harriott and Marlyn Jones
    • 4. Drugs and the Prison System: Impact of Legislative Changes on the Prison Crises in the Commonwealth Caribbean Region - Wendy Singh
    • 5. Rethinking Privatisation: The State and Illegal Drugs in the Commonwealth Caribbean - Philip Nanton
  • Part III: Interventions on the Ground
    • 6. Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation in Jamaica and the Caribean - Howard Gough
    • 7. What's the Hook? Diary of a Drop-in Centre or Rehabilitation Before Abstinence - Marcus Day
    • 8. Cayman Drug Council: Practising Harm Reduction in a Zero Tolerance Society - Catherine Chestnut
    • 9. Ethical Dilemmas Surrounding Drug Research: Pitfalls of Gathering Sensitive Information in the Caribbean Context - Jennifer Hillebrand
  • Part IV: Responses to Opportunity
    • 10. Illicit Drug Markets in the Caribbean: Analysis of Information on Drug Flows Through the Region - Michael Platzer
    • 11. The Ganja Industry and Alternative Development in St Vincent and the Grenadines - Axel Klein


'This very welcome book provides a unique insight into smaller countries' attempts to shape their policy and response to drugs in the context of national, regional and international imperatives.'
Gerry Stimson, Imperial College, London

'About a century ago a few colonial countries plus the USA designed a system of prohibiting drugs that now can be considered a major problem for human rights and state sovereignty. This book's useful analysis of the unintended consequences in the Caribbean transit zone of prohibition as drug 'control' may help bring about a much needed review of the system.'
Peter Cohen, University of Amsterdam

'A refreshing look at how the criminalization of ganja has driven a wedge between society and the state in the Caribbean, and how the prosecution of possession fills up the gaols while the differential application of the law allows traffickers to go free. The book is realistic in acknowledging the irresistible pressure from North America and Europe to stop the trafficking through these countries but cogently makes the point that this should not drive domestic policy into more and more punitive responses.'
Cindy Fazey, University of Liverpool

'This book fills a major gap, providing substance abuse researchers, clinicians, policy makers, and general readers on both sides of the Atlantic with a collection of interesting and provocative essays. I highly recommend it.'
James A. Inciardi, University of Delaware

'Provides a useful introduction and examination of key policy issues raised by illicit drugs and their considerable impact on Caribbean societies...the book would be useful in courses like Drugs and Society or those on Cultures of the Caribbean.'
Merrill Singer, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

'It offers a unique quasi-Historical-Comparative (H-C) analysis of illicit drug use, its production, and transshipment across Caribbean countries and beyond...offer readers a thorough review of the contemporary challenges and opportunities enacting an effective Caribbean drug policy entails. The editors show great diligence in outlining social, economic, political, and historical Caribbean realities which few texts currently offer; a practice which surely will keep audiences engaged...The editors of Caribbean Drugs set out to dismantle centuries old stereotypes surrounding illicit drug use in Caribbean region. To this end, they were successful.'
Wilson R. Palacios, Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice


Publication Date: 1 August 2004
272 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781842774991
eBook ePub: 9781848136229
eBook PDF: 9781848130579
eBook Kindle: 9781780327594
Library Edition: 9781842774984

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